I wrote this several years ago, and it was published in the anthology entitled On Being a Pharmacist: True Stories by Pharmacists, compiled and edited by Joanna Maudlin Pangilinan and J. Aubrey Waddell. It was published by the American Pharmacists Association in 2010.
I share it now.
Ancaro imparo means “I am still learning” and is attributed to the 87-year-old Michelangelo. Like him, I am still learning and have found that nearly every pharmacist has been able to teach me something. That’s one of the great advantages to working with so many people over the years. The mentoring process is ongoing and perhaps even subtle at times. Often, we learn to do something a better, easier way. Sometimes it’s a new technique, or it’s a more effective way to communicate with the patients we serve. At times, we even learn how best not to do something.
Once, the lesson I learned was how to be more compassionate. Lori was a technician I hired many years ago. She had a gap of nearly 5 years in her work history, and I wondered whether she would be dependable. From her interview, I found out that she was a mother of two young boys and was just reentering the workforce. Although she was on welfare, she had plans to go back to school to finish her education.
At the time, I wondered if I would be taking a gamble by hiring her. In the end, I decided to give her a try, and, boy, did that gamble pay off! She was extremely dependable, had a great work ethic, and was upbeat about everything. In her words, she was “blessed” despite the difficulties of rearing two boys, returning to school full time, working, and being on welfare. I worked with her for several years until she graduated as a nurse.
One day when we were working together, a patient on welfare came in to pick up a prescription. The prescription was written for Phospho-soda, which is an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. In the state in which I reside, OTC medications are not, for the most part, covered by Medicaid; however, prescription medications are. Thus, even if the patient has a prescription for an OTC medication, she would have to pay for it. Most patients on Medicaid cannot afford to pay for any medication that isn’t covered by their insurance, no matter how inexpensive.
In the patient’s case, this medication, being used for a procedure, was medically necessary, yet the patient did not have the money to pay for it. At that, Lori said that she would pay for it, and she did. She, who could ill afford it herself, paid for the patient’s prescription.
I admit that I was embarrassed by my lack of generosity and compassion. That I, who could easily afford it, couldn’t see that the patient’s need outweighed the cost, but Lori did.
Whether she knows it or not, that act of stewardship has forever changed the way I look at patients and their needs. I believe I have become a more caring pharmacist and have at times done the same thing for others—whether it’s a college student away from home and out of cash, a person who just can’t afford a needed antibiotic, or some other equally important reason. No, I don’t pay for everyone’s prescriptions, and I don’t do it all the time, but sometimes it is as Lori said, “Well, she needs it, doesn’t she?”
Nancy Brady, 2009